As I begin this article, I think it should be noted, I consider Les Miles to be one of the top coaches in all of college football. He has won two SEC championships, a BCS national championship and five organizations named him national coach of the year in 2011.
With that said, Miles is treading on dangerous waters and could lose control of the ship very quickly if he does not proceed with caution.
My concerns are not because the LSU Tigers have been defeated in three of their past four bowl games. My concern is not even that their new rival, the University of Alabama, has won three of the past four BCS national championships.
My concern is that it appears, from the outside looking in, that Miles has decided that discipline is not needed to sustain winning.
Texas Christian head coach Gary Patterson recently blasted Miles over his decision to reinstate running back Jeremy Hill after a team vote. Under normal circumstances, I would think it was an unprofessional move by Patterson with the Horned Frogs and the Bayou Bengals set to do battle during the first week of the season.
However, Patterson has earned the right to speak because he is faced with a similar situation with his top defensive player Devonte Fields. The star defensive end is suspended for two games for violation of university and team policy. Fields was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last year despite being just a freshman.
When Patterson was asked about Fields getting the same kind of opportunity Hill did with a team vote, he responded, “My whole team would vote Devonte (Fields) to be back on the team because they all want to win,” Patterson said. “That doesn’t teach life lessons.”
In my opinion, student-athletes should never decide the fate of another student-athlete. Miles is the one who is paid 4.3 million dollars a year to run the LSU program, but at the end of the day, my opinion doesn't matter to Miles.
Moreover, if this was the only recent issue, there would be no need for this article. However, there are several red flags that are alarming.
For example, Tyrann Mathieu self reported to NFL teams that he had failed more than 10 drug tests. When Miles was questioned about the amount of failed drug test he responded, ““I don’t really have the numbers there. I would be remiss to comment on number.”
So if we take Les Miles at his word, he had a Heisman finalist on his team who had several failed drug tests, but he doesn't have much information on it.
Another red flag was Jordan Jefferson. The former LSU was charged with second-degree battery and was suspended for 4 games and soon after his return was elevated back to starter. However, Jefferson and LSU were shutout in the BCS National Championship Game.
From the outside it appeared that Miles went all-in with Jefferson and Mathieu during the 2011 season. Yes they won 13 games but in 2012, Jefferson was arrested along with Mathieu for possession of marijuana.
Some would argue that it is the type of players that Miles is recruiting. They will point to Hill who at 19 years old was charged with oral sexual battery over a relationship with a 14 year old girl. He pleaded guilty to carnal knowledge of a juvenile and was given two years probation.
Their starting quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, was arrested for allegedly grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman. He was also charged with underage consumption and possession of alcohol. disorderly conduct-obstruction and possessing fake identification. Mettenberger, at the time, was enrolled at the University of Georgia. Head coach Mark Richt swiftly kicked Mettenberger off the team.
I do not fault Miles for recruiting players with past issues. Though they look like men coming out of high school, they are still just teenagers. And remember, Nick Saban offered both Hill and Mettenberger scholarships to Alabama.
While I do not fault Miles for recruiting these players, the blame has to be on him for how he has dealt with disciplining them when they mess up again. Yes, you can take a player who has had legal issues but they must know you have a zero tolerance policy and you're certainly not going to leave their punishment up to their peers.
Miles is a great coach and LSU is a great program. However, both could be in for an epic fail if something doesn't change soon. X's and O's will only take a program so far.